Last year’s floods, which hit hundreds of homes and businesses across the Westcountry, could have cost the UK economy up to £600 million, according to research.
The Environment Agency said the estimated damage to all property totalled about £277 million while the impact on businesses in England was up to £200 million, including some £84 million in property damage.
Other indirect impacts – such as lost working days – hit companies and local economies by around £33 million, the agency found, and disruption to transport, communications and utility links cost up to £82 million.
While a quarter of days were officially in drought in 2012, with 20 million people affected by hosepipe bans, flooding occurred one in every five days, affecting more than 7,000 properties.
In Devon and Cornwall 1,000 properties were hit including dozens in Braunton, North Devon, where a torrent water on December 22 overwhelmed new £1.5 million flood defences
Another of the hardest hit areas was Helston where a severe flood warning – the highest possible – was issued during the early hours of December 22 after rapidly rising river levels on the River Cober. Rivers in both counties were recorded as being at their highest levels since the 1960s as 90mm (3.5 inches) of rain fell in six days.
In Somerset almost 300 properties were flooded while 1,000 acres of farmland were under water for months on the Somerset Moors and Levels.
A report by Somerset County Council estimated the financial costs at £7.1 million.
“Extreme events, such as the flooding and drought in 2012, are likely to become more frequent and more severe in the coming decades,” Richard Cresswell, South West director of the Environment Agency, said.
“It is vital that businesses plan for weather impacts to safeguard their operations today and in the future.
“Every £1 spent on preventing flooding saves £8 in repairing damage. Many businesses are already helping to build a stronger economy in areas previously at risk by contributing £148 million in partnership funding.”
The agency is encouraging businesses to sign up for flood warnings and make a plan, as part of its annual Flood Awareness Campaign.
Some 175,000 businesses are at risk of flooding in England and Wales, and in a recent survey one in five members of the Federation of Small Businesses said flooding had had a negative impact on their company over the past year.
Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: “The Government is getting on with building better flood defences across the country. At the spending round we set out long-term funding for flood defences, protecting over 300,000 homes over the next six years, giving homeowners and businesses security, and unlocking new development and job opportunities.”